As we celebrate the liturgical feast of Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, it is an opportune moment to reflect on devotional practices of prayer connected with the angels, particularly prayers to St. Michael. The various readings from the Liturgy of the Hours and the mass today make clear that the Archangel Michael is a warrior, a defender of heaven against Satan and evil (Revelation 12:1-17, Office of Readings). Michael is presented as “the great prince, guardian of your people,” who will lead the people of God in escape from the time of distress (Daniel 12:1, Midmorning Prayer). Along with Archangel Gabriel, who announces very important messages, and Archangel Raphael, who offers God’s healing, Archangel Michael is understood to be one of the “seven spirits before [God’s] throne” (Revelation 1:4-5, Evening Prayer). His name means “Who is like God?” and he lives to protect the holiness of God. No one is like God. No one but God is God. Archangel Michael assists in keeping that reality clear – unholy pretenders will not stand.
Thus prayers for the protection of St. Michael have been popular over the ages. At the seminary where I work, the school community has prayed a prayer of St. Michael each day after Morning Prayer since 2018, when Pope Francis requested that the faithful pray the rosary daily, asking the Blessed Mother and St. Michael to protect the Church from the devil. While the pope’s 2018 request came at the time of renewed awareness of sexual abuse in the Church (see his related letter here), earlier he also consecrated the Vatican to St. Michael and St. Joseph in 2013, and has reiterated encouragement of devotion to St. Michael, including in words this week to the Michaelite Fathers.
At Saint Meinrad, we pray the following prayer text:
O glorious prince Saint Michael,
chief and commander of the heavenly hosts,
guardian of souls,
vanquisher of rebel spirits,
servant in the house of the Divine King
and our admirable conductor;
You who shine with superhuman virtue;
deliver us from all evil,
who turn to you with confidence;
and enable us by your gracious protection
to serve God more and more faithfully every day.
This particular prayer comes from the conclusion to the Chaplet of St. Michael, approved by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1851. The chaplet is said to have come from a vision had by Portuguese Carmelite Servant of God Antonia d’Astonac, during a time when devotion to St. Michael increased dramatically.
A more familiar prayer to St. Michael also comes from the nineteenth century, from Pope Leo XIII:
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
As one of several “Leonine Prayers” to be said after mass, this prayer to St. Michael was added in 1886 during a time of great tension between Church and state. After the 1929 resolution resulting in the creation of the Vatican as a city-state, Pope Pius XI requested the prayers be continued for the conversion of Russia. In 1994, in an Angelus talk reflecting on threats against unborn life, Pope John Paul II recalled Pope Leo’s prayer, and noted that while people no longer are expected to pray the Prayer of St. Michael after mass, it is a worthy prayer for protection against evil.
Whether prayed at the conclusion of a rosary, after mass, or at some other time, these prayers to St. Michael are part of a long tradition of regularly turning to heaven for help against forces that would try to destroy the goodness and unity of the Church.